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We were sitting on the bench as we had many, many times, watching my oldest daughter tap dance through the large glass window. I tried to pull her younger sister away from the window as she shouted “I dance!" "I dance!” This was a new dance studio and Kelsi wasn’t used to being here to watch her big sister dance. An instructor who passed by, asked me “Why isn’t she dancing?” I looked at her as if she asked me to fly to the moon and back by tomorrow. “We haven’t found a place for her yet.” I answered with a forced smile. With a big smile, and great enthusiasm, the instructor opened the door to the class next to her sister’s and motioned for Kelsi to enter the holy of holies — the dance studio. Kelsi bolted into that room faster than I’ve ever seen her move before. My eyes filled with tears. She was in! At that moment I was truly touched in a way very few parents can understand. 

I had searched the internet numerous times and called many dance studios in the area, but I could not find a place that would allow my youngest daughter to dance. The former studio where my older daughter danced said they would have to hire a special person to teach the class and we would need a certain number of dancers to make it worthwhile. I could never get the numbers they wanted, and the prices were steep. Perhaps I had to accept the fact there wouldn’t be a place for Kelsi to do what she loved most — dance. 

You see, Kelsi has special needs and wasn’t welcome at other dance studios. I had not found a place for her to dance, to learn like other girls her age, and to be a part of something that typical kids take for granted every day — that is until we found Dance Machines. At Dance Machines, the only requirement was a love for dancing. The teachers here embrace our kids like they do all the children who dance there — with love and respect. 

Kelsi is now in her third year at Dance Machines and looks forward to her once-a-week dance class with great eagerness. As I watched Kelsi dance week after week with other children, I couldn’t help but wonder if there were other children with special needs who yearned for an environment that would welcome and teach them with respect and patience. I approached one of the owners of Dance Machines, Sandi Parker, with the idea of forming a class for children with special needs, and she was very excited to try it. I sent emails out to all my contacts and soon word spread. 

There was great interest in the class and it grew to two classes before the initial start date. There is a young adult class with 6 participants and a younger class with 7 participating. Sandi Parker is the instructor for the youth class, and Christina Rosen teaches the young adults. Having no formal training for teaching children or young adults with special needs, they embrace them with an open mind and a lot of patience. I asked Sandi how she felt about teaching children with special needs. She answered, “They are just like any dancer — a joy to teach and it’s fun to watch them progress. The love of dance and music is transcending and makes everyone happy. These children are no different.” People with special needs want what everyone wants, to participate in the same activities as others and to be treated with respect. 

Dance Machines is owned by four women who have a love for dance, a love for children, and a heart for all who want to dance and where everyone is welcome. They have been in business since 1983 and moved to Coppell in 2007. The students performed along with the other dancers at the studios’ annual dance recital recently at Coppell High school.  The audience was moved by these Special Dancers and took their emotions to a place where most dance recitals cannot. I looked around after the Special Stars performed and saw through my own tears that there wasn’t a dry eye in the audience that June afternoon in Coppell, Texas — a day like any other day, only special.